Review: Bond Girl

Recap: From the time Alex was a little girl and her father took her to his office on Wall Street, she knew she wanted to work there too. She studied for it. She interviewed for and got a job at one of the tops firms on “The Street.” But she didn’t know what being a “bond girl” was all about until the job began. There was the time her boss sent her a few boroughs away to pick up a 50-pound cheese wheel. There was the time she was called ugly at a work party. There was the time one of her coworkers ate everything inside the office vending machine in one day, and she had to babysit him. Sexism galore, Alex got through it all, learning the system and meeting a cute guy, Will, at work.

But nothing ever seemed quite right. Sure, she got paid well and was able to afford clothing, shoes and meals she never dreamed of purchasing on her own. But her relationship with Will never seemed real. He refused to talk to her on weekends, and she was never sure why. She got to hang out less and less with her friends since work took up so much of her time. And her boss was kind of a crazy person — demanding is an understatement. But when one of her clients started hitting on her to an uncomfortable degree, and when she finds out why Will is so distant, everything changes. And Alex had to ask herself — is this really what she signed up for?

AnalysisBond Girl is some light-fare chick lit, comparable to a Nanny Diaries or Devil Wears Prada in that it deals with a woman trying to get through the pain of dealing with a horrible boss. But Bond Girl is much more than that. In Nanny and Devil, those women work for women, employed in jobs that are typically held by women (nannies, fashion magazine employees). But Bond Girl turns that format on its head by throwing Alex into a male-dominated work environment. The added struggle of sexism thickens the plot and gives the novel the opportunity to make a social statement.

What’s better is that while Alex’s boss is demanding and especially hard on her, he’s ultimately a good guy. It’s easy to understand why Alex continues to work for him, and it’s refreshing to read a book like this in which the boss is actually likable. Alex, too, stays likable, which is an achievement in its own right for a book like this. Sure, she goes through some rough times — she cries, drinks with her girlfriends, complains. But she never becomes a horrible person like similar characters in similar books (i.e. Andy Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada or Nan from The Nanny Diaries). 

While the book’s ending may be a little open-ended — as most books in this style are — I finished it feeling confident she would be okay.

MVP: Alex. Of course it’s an obvious choice. She didn’t have much character growth or development, but she could have gone down the path of becoming unlikeable, and she didn’t.

Get Bond Girl in hardcover for $1.39.

Or on your Kindle for $11.14.

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Amy Schumer the Next Comedienne To Pen Memoir

In the growing list of female comedians who already have or plan to pen memoirs or books of essays — Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Anna Kendrick — we now have another to add to the list: Amy Schumer.

Who’s surprised? Not me! She’s had a fantastic year, and now Entertainment Weekly is reporting her book, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, sold for between $8-10 million. Apparently her book was shopped to publishers all over Manhattan, but Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Book finally put in the highest bid.

No word on when the book is set to be published, but I think it’s safe to say it’s bound to be a bestseller!


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Show vs. Book: Hamilton

Before having seen the critically-acclaimed musical Hamilton, I knew as much about Alexander Hamilton as I imagine many other Americans know — he’s the guy on the $10 bill, right? Was he a president? I think so? Well, Alexander Hamilton wasn’t a president. Spoiler alert: he was a founding father who was shot and killed at the age of 49 by then-Vice President Aaron Burr. But he is a legacy, who I finally started to care about thanks to lyrical genius and creator of the new hit musical Lin Manuel Miranda.

The show is based on the Ron Chernow biography entitled Alexander Hamilton, a 700+ page behemoth. Yes, it’s a monster of a book, but a fascinating one nonetheless. It takes the reader quickly through his young life as an illegitimate child born on the Caribbean island of St. Croix. His intelligence and ability to write and speak eloquently was enough to get his fellow islanders to pay for him to go to school in the United States. His rise to the top from a bleak childhood is a classic rags to riches story — one that Lin Manuel Miranda equated with that of a hip hop star. Hence; the hip hop musical version of Hamilton’s life, which includes lines like “I’m just like my country/I’m young, scrappy and hungry/And I’m not throwing away my shot.”

Hamilton, the show, lasts three hours, which is fairly long by today’s standards. It’s amazing and astonishing to learn about Hamilton’s life: his rise to the top, his love for his wife (and sister-in-law), his sex scandal, his kinship with George Washington and the relationship with his frenemy Aaron Burr. Reading the book, however, filled in several blanks. For instance, the show highlights Hamilton’s oldest son, but doesn’t make clear that he had a total of eight children, plus additional orphans he and his wife, Eliza, took in. Nor does it include that one of Hamilton’s daughters had a mental breakdown after her brother (Hamilton’s son) died. There’s also a large chunk of the book that focuses on the time during which John Adams served as president, but the ongoing feud between Hamilton and Adams is left out of the show, with the exception of a single lyric. Upon further research, I learned a rap about Adams was written but had been cut — probably for time.

Instead the musical focuses less on Hamilton’s family and political feud with Adams and emphasizes his relationship with Burr. Of course, this makes sense. After all, it’s a Broadway musical, and the show needs to lead up to the big deadly duel finale. But in reality, Burr wasn’t as big a figure in Hamilton’s life as some of the other men of that time. Sure, Hamilton and Burr ran in the same circles. Sure, toward the end of Hamilton’s life, the two hated each other — hey, they didn’t duel for nothing — but, based on the book, their lives didn’t entirely revolve around each other like the show makes it seem.

The show is amazing. Alexander Hamilton is an amazing figure. After seeing the show, you’ll feel hungry to learn more about Hamilton, and for that reason, I highly recommend you not throw away your shot and make it a point to see the show and also read more about the guy who happens to have his face on those $10 bills of yours.

Get Alexander Hamilton in paperback for $14.96.

Or on your Kindle for $15.99.

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Review: Stories I Only Tell My Friends

Recap: Rob Lowe has always wanted to act, ever since he was a young boy growing up in Ohio. So when he hits it big by the time he’s 15, but not as big as some of his other friends and colleagues — like say, Matt Dillon or Sarah Jessica Parker — it can be disheartening. But then the Brat Pack happens. And then Rob Lowe’s teen hearthrobbiness happens, soon to be followed by relationships and sex scandals and boozy vacations and — oh yeah — more movies.

Following Rob Lowe’s life through his first memoir opened my eyes (technically ears since I listened to the audiobook read by the author) to crazy stories that I would never have believed if I hadn’t read the memoir myself. Like how Rob Lowe encourage JFK Jr. to marry his then-girlfriend Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. Or how he dated a princess he’d always had a crush on. Or how someone he knew was murdered shortly after he left their mansion. Or how he was on the same plane as some of the 9/11 terrorists the week before 9/11 happened.

Crazy things have happened to Rob Lowe — and what’s more, he’s been through the true ups and downs of the industry. He’s starred in hit TV shows and movies and ones that have bombed. He’s also starred in ones in which his parts have been almost entirely cut. He’s a recovering alcoholic. He had one of the first sex tape scandals. And yet, he also has a beautiful family and a wife of 20+ years for which he obviously cares deeply. He can do drama and comedy. He’s a force to be reckoned with, who you may or may not have paid much attention. But after having read this book, I can say this: he’s worth paying attention to.

Analysis: The reason Stories I Only Tell My Friends is so perfect is because it’s exactly what you want in a celebrity memoir — details on the scandals and addictions in that person’s life, behind the scenes knowledge of their most popular work, and an honest look at the kind of person he or she really is.

My favorite part was the section on Lowe’s West Wing days — a section which any West Wing fan would appreciate. But there’s also the section on SNL and the one on Austin Powers. And then, suddenly I realized how much Rob Lowe has been a part of the landscape for years, right under my nose and I never truly appreciated him until now.

He’s such a beautiful specimen of man, I’ve had a hard time thinking of him as anything more than that. To me, he was always a pretty face that happened to act. This book made me appreciate how hard he’s worked and how talented he is, especially to bounce back and forth between comedy and drama. Add all the personal stuff he’s been through, and he’s truly an amazing man. Okay. I’m rambling now. But you get the idea. This book encompasses him in a way that makes me feel like I’m one of Rob Lowe’s friends. Wait. With a title like Stories I Only Tell My Friends, maybe that’s the point.

Get Stories I Only Tell My Friends in paperback for $12.01.

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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Movie vs. Book: Dark Places

Libby Day didn’t have an ordinary childhood. She grew up alone — not because her parents both died, nor because she was left behind, but because her mother and two sisters were murdered by her brother. “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas” is her claim to fame even 25 years later, and in many ways, the murders still rule her life. She spent decades surviving off money earned through life insurance policies, donations and book sales from the memoir she wrote. Now her money is running out. Her brother is still in jail. They still don’t talk. And Libby hasn’t started a new life because she can’t let go of her past.

But she then learns a “Kill Club” exists, where people investigate some of the nation’s most infamous crimes and murders. The Day murders are a favorite in the club. When Libby realizes she can take advantage of the club by accepting money from them in return for speaking to other people associated with her brother’s murders, she does it. She is desperate for money. But she soon realizes that most members of the “Kill Club” think she’s weak and a liar. They believe her brother isn’t the killer. Being seven at the time of the murders, Libby doesn’t remember much, so she sets out to re-investigate the murders herself and encounters an entire secret history of the Day family that she never knew existed.

Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places includes many of the same things that readers liked about her more famous bestseller Gone Girl: rotating — and untrustworthy — narrators and perspectives, suspense, mystery, a big twist and general creepiness. Gone Girl has its bloody, gory moments, but Dark Places trumps those. The killing scene is gruesome, and there are sections about sacrifices to Satan that can’t help but cause goosebumps. Generally speaking, the film does a good job of portraying the same creepiness the book offers, but still doesn’t compare.

The casting is a little off. Charlize Theron as Libby Day is all wrong; she is too beautiful, too confident, too “cool” to be the unconfident misfit that is Libby Day. Similarly, Chloe Grace Moretz is too angelic to play a Satan-worshipper. But it’s more than just the casting. The flashback scenes including killing scene is hokey. Shot in black and white and shaky, it looks more “Blair Witch Project” than “Psycho.”

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with the movie, other than to say it just doesn’t feel right. There are a few characters that are left out or killed off, including Libby’s Aunt Diane. Some of the interviews Libby conducts are also excluded. I understand those choices were made for time purposes. Otherwise, the movie follows the book closely enough. But there’s something about it — maybe it’s the fact that the book is just so creepy, so dark, so twisty that it’s hard to create a visual version that can even remotely compare. The movie doesn’t allow us to connect with the characters like the book does — and suddenly I found myself more curious about when the movie would end than “Did her brother really do it?”

Get Dark Places on your Kindle for $7.99.

Or in paperback for $8.33.

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New Tolkien Book Set to be Released in October

Just because The Hobbit movies have all been made doesn’t mean Tolkien’s work is finished.

According to Entertainment Weekly, another book by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien is being released: The Story of Kullervo, based on a Finnish legend know as the Kalevala.

The book is a fantasy — are we surprised? — and tells the story of a man who is sold into slavery, only to unknowingly seduce his sister and then kill himself. The story is apparently one of Tolkien’s earlier works, which apparently influenced his more recent literature. Tolkien never actually finished the novel, so the second half of it is his outline.

The book was already published last week in the U.K. It’s due to be released in the States October 27.

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Jack Black, David Oyelowo Voicing Audiobooks

Having recently listened to an audiobook (stay tuned for a review coming next week!), i know the value of the perfect person voicing the book to which you’re listening. That’s why this news is all the more significant. ‘

According to Entertainment Weekly, actors Jack Black and David Oyelowo are both voicing audiobooks.

Jack Black is reading and recording The Little Shop of Monsters, a picture book created by Goosebumps and Arthur creators R.L. Stine and Marc Brown. The book already came out this Tuesday.

David Oyelowo is voicing the latest James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis. You might think he’s the first black actor to voice Bond, but actually he’s not. Hugh Quarshie did the famous spy’s voice in the Dr. No audiobook that was released in 2012. But that doesn’t mean the concept of a black actor playing Bond is lost on anyone. In fact, there are several talks and much speculation about Daniel Craig’s next replacement being a black actor. But for now, it’s Oyelowo who holds all the cards.

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